PHOENIX – The team connection that brought the San Antonio Spurs through the first round of the playoffs never made it to the U.S. Airways Center for the first appearance in the second round against the Phoenix Suns. Shooting errors became a serious problem for a team that fought to find its rhythm, eventually losing to the Suns, 111-102.
Fresh off four days rest after finishing the Mavericks off in San Antonio, Tim Duncan, George Hill, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess took to the court to face off against Phoenix. The Spurs struggled straight out of the gate, completing just two baskets in the first four and half minutes compared to the Suns’ five baskets and single free throw.
Steve Nash haunted San Antonio early in the quarter, firing off a three-pointer just before the Spurs came back to narrow the Suns’ lead to 19-14 with 4:06 left, thanks to contributions from McDyess, Duncan, Ginobili and Jefferson. Ending a six-point Phoenix scoring burst, Tony Parker and George Hill stepped up to take the offensive lead for San Antonio, adding four points apiece to end the first quarter, Phoenix 31, San Antonio 22.
New confidence took over the Spurs, who charged into the second quarter answering each Suns basket, beginning with a much-needed three-point-play from Parker. Coming in off the bench, Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair were each able to add a basket to cut Phoenix’s lead to six points just two minutes into the quarter.
Ginobili made two free throws and a basket were a flash in the pan just before the Suns came charging back on an 11-1 scoring spree lasting four minutes. Down 48-34 with three and a half minutes left in the quarter, Ginobili made a huge three-pointer to jump-start San Antonio’s offense. Free throws from Ginobili and Hill paired with a two-point floater by Parker brought the Spurs back within ten points from Phoenix, a spread they were able to maintain to the end of the half; Phoenix 57, San Antonio 47.
Coach Gregg Popovich managed to fully resuscitate the Spurs’ offense during halftime, giving the team the chance to develop its first lead of the game just four and half minutes into the third quarter. Single baskets from Hill, Ginobili and McDyess narrowed the Suns’ lead further to just six points. While Nash worked to recover his team’s disappearing lead, Ginobili added another five points for the Spurs before rebounding off a missed Suns’ basket. The rebound was passed down the court to Jefferson, who got it to Duncan for a basket that diminished the lead to four points, bringing San Antonio back within range of taking over.
A third three-pointer from Ginobili following two baskets from Parker gave San Antonio its first lead of the game with 7:26 left in the quarter. Phoenix refused to allow the Spurs to enjoy the lead for long, finishing the quarter on a 12-4 run to take back the home court lead yet again; Phoenix 85, San Antonio 75.
Turnovers were a large problem for either team, but San Antonio were unable to make them work to their advantage. A quick Phoenix turnover early in the fourth went absolutely nowhere, resulting instead in a Keith Bogans foul on the way to the San Antonio basket. Less than a minute later, Bogans was able to make two shots, including the final San Antonio three-point basket of the night, bringing the Spurs back within nine points of the Suns.
It would be nearly another two minutes before San Antonio would make their mark on the scoreboard with a basket, giving Phoenix time to put themselves twelve points ahead of San Antonio with 7:03 left in the game. Baskets from Duncan and Ginobili contributed to a 13-0 San Antonio burst to put the Spurs within a single point of the Suns, ended by an Amare Stoudamire basket. Much like the fans watching in the Central time zone, the team was tired and let go of the game a few minutes early, ending Phoenix 111, San Antonio 102.
The ‘Big Three’ had a big game as the only Spurs to reach double digits; Ginobili and Parker led the team in scoring with 27 and 26 points respectively, while Duncan added another 20. Duncan had 11 rebounds, followed by McDyess with seven and Ginobili with five. Ginobili had five assists, Duncan had four, and Jefferson and Parker each added three.
Shooting problems plagued San Antonio, who only made 38-of-83 field goals but managed 22-of-31 free throws. The team had nine offensive rebounds, 38 rebounds, and 35 bench points.
The Spurs will try to take down the Suns again in game two in Phoenix on Wednesday night.